Flora and fauna
The area around Xigera is one of the Delta's few truly deep-water experiences. (Jedibe, when it was open, used to deserve this accolade. It really was surrounded by apparently endless papyrus swamps, with only the odd island. Camp Okavango, Kwara, Xugana and Shinde could also lay claim to have deep-water experiences to some extent.)
Here at Xigera itself you're very close to the Jao River, which feeds the Boro and is one of the Okavango's major waterways.
Spending most of your time on the water, you're probably going to be most aware of the aquatic grasses and sedges. Of these the graceful, feathery papyri (Cyperus papyrus
) are perhaps the most striking, and certainly one of the most interesting.
In shallower sections you'll also find large areas of common reeds here, Phragmites australis, and the tall miscanthus grass, Miscanthus junceus
. There are also a few lovely stands of pure water fern, Thelypterus interrupta
, on the edges of some of the channels and lagoons.
On the islands you'll find the normal trees of the Delta, including a good number of confetti trees, Gynmosporia senegalensis
. The English name for these comes from the small, scented white flowers which come out around May-June, and then fall underneath the tree in large enough quantities to be scooped up.
This area isn't a bad one for big game, though that's not why I'd go to Xigera. If you're staying at Xigera then remember that the bridge across the channel, linking the camp on one island with the main vehicle track to the airstrip on the other, isn't only used by people. Many other animals find it convenient, especially at night. Spotted hyenas cross it almost religiously every night, lion regularly and leopard occasionally too. Monkeys and baboons play on it during the day. Look underneath at the fish in the clear water and you may even see the odd spotted-necked otter fishing for bream.
On the larger island elephants are often in evidence, and when I was last here the floodplain beyond my tent's veranda was dotted with lechwe. Elephant are often around, sometimes in substantial herds of 50 or so, and on game drives you've a good chance of spotting impala and tsessebe.
As you'd expect for the environment, the Xigera area has one of the highest densities of sitatunga antelope in the Delta. These lovely creatures are notoriously difficult to spot, but gliding around silently in a mokoro probably offers you the best chance possible – just keep yours eyes wide open and your mouth tightly shut!
On one occasion here recently, an eminent guide was leading a number of mekoro, trying to get as close as possible to a sitatunga. When the antelope made a break to get away, it jumped directly over one of the mekoro.
Given the environment of large areas of permanent papyrus and swamp vegetation, plus some islands, this is a good camp for seeking the more water-dependent birds in the Delta.
Notable amongst these are the African skimmers, which usually arrive at Xigera Lagoon around September or October. About twenty pairs of these amazing birds were noted here in 2001, and if they're new to you then take a few moments to watch one of them through binoculars. You'll see it using the most amazing flying skills to place its lower mandible in the lagoon at a fixed depth, and steadily scythe through the water. Then periodically you see the bill snap shut with its catch of an unfortunate small fish. This is compulsive viewing, even if you never normally look at anything smaller than a lion; an amazing fishing technique.
Whilst floating around you can expect to see assorted kingfishers, herons, egrets and other water birds. Included in this list, if you're lucky, will be purple (but not lesser) gallinules, lesser jacanas, moorhens, lesser moorhens and green-backed herons. It should be a good area for bitterns (including the dwarf and little), though I've never seen one here.
Other unusual birds that enthusiastic ornithologists should look out for include chirping cisticolas, tawny-flanked prinias and palm swifts, all of which are regularly sighted here.